Sunday, November 23, 2014

Beware of Dragon, Part 1: The "Vanilla" Dragon Type

Good morning gamers,

In preparation for the release of The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies, I'm doing a four-post review of Dragons that you can buy in the LOTR SBG. There are, in my taxonomy, three classes of dragons you can buy and understanding why you would purchase each will assist in deciding what army you build around it. The classes are:
  • Vanilla: no upgrades (cheapest option, melee-oriented)
  • Utility: a single upgrade (medium expense, single-task-oriented)
  • Versatile: two upgrades (most expensive, potential for multi-task orientation)
In this post, we're going to focus on the "vanilla" class - what you get by just purchasing a dragon. As we talk about the "benefits" and "cautions" for playing with dragons, keep in mind that most of what I'm going to relay in this post isn't going to be rocket science or unexpected, but it is important for laying the groundwork for understanding what upgrades (if any) you buy for your beastie.

Benefits to Playing a Dragon

1) Melee Profile

One of the chief reasons anyone would look at a dragon is their ability to perform well in melee combat. When trying to fight normally, dragons have 4 Attacks with Fight 7, Strength 7, and 3 Might points. This is not only above average for heroes in general, but tends to be higher than the strongest heroes in Middle Earth. Though you pay the same as you would for several heroes, you can definitely go toe-to-toe against the vast majority of foes if you really need to.
2) Monster Brutal Strikes

Here at TMAT, we have incorporated the new Brutal Attacks rules for monsters, so dragons have the ability to smash armies by throwing units, attack heroes/single high defense models on their Strength stats, or blow off "Suicide Bobs" who try to tie them down. If you manage to win the fight against a D7 Boromir of the White Tower or King Aragorn, you can wound them on 4s by striking normally OR you can wound them on 3s by "rending." Facing a D7+ Dwarf front line? Throw someone. Get tagged by a Redshield near Erkenbrand? Shove him away and charge into Erkenbrand himself.
3) Courage Reduction

Dragons have the Harbinger of Evil special rule. When combined with Terror, you can make it really hard for Courage 2-3 armies to tie you down. If/when you break the enemy force, be sure to kill/tag all their heroes so you can watch units run away like mad around the dragon. This isn't unique for dragons - this can have disastrous effects when you have multiple ringwraiths on table too.
Cautions about Running a Dragon

Though dragons are great at fighting enemy units, they have limitations as well. A few are highlighted below:

1) "Resistant" to Magic

While dragons are great at taking down heroes, enemy spell-casters are a danger. I hear the veteran gamers exclaiming, "But I have the Resistant to Magic rule, which means I can always resist spells that come my way!" As true as this is, a single will point is not often enough to break a spell. Considering that most spells are cast on a 3+ or 4+, you need two Will points to have a reasonably high chance of defeating the spell (high 70 percents) and with a single dice, you may need to pay a Might point or two in order to block the threshold casting value. If they get a 6, you're even less likely to stop the spell from taking effect.
In addition, because you don't get to use the Resistant to Magic rule until you are out of Will points, you can't be "immune to magic" until you've eliminated your ability to use Will for other things (we'll see why this is a big issue for dragons in the next post). Spell-casters are also tricky, because at base cost, a dragon has no ranged capabilities and pretty much all casters move at the same speed as a dragon. While most army lists don't run spell-casters, when one does appear, you run the chance of having a 250 point punching bag instead of a powerful monster.

2) Getting Stuck

While you can use any of the Brutal Attacks to deal with a single unit who attempts to tie you down, with 6" movement, you have very little control over what damage you will be able to do if your opponent charges you with a single unit and then keeps his other units spread out. Since you're sinking the cost of three Cave Trolls into a single monster, you'd better have a way of killing lots of units. For my part, I see the dragon needing to remove most/all of the enemy heroes in play and then secondarily kill swaths of units. If this is your end goal, getting stuck by a minor unit and being able to charge/knock down only a few other units is not going to do the trick. Furthermore, because your base is large, having a few units spread out in stagger formation can create a sufficient barrier to protect a tactical hero (spell-casters like Ringwraiths, aura heroes like Malbeth the Seer, etc.) a turn or two of protection.
3) Average Courage

While Courage 4 is normal for most heroes, it has several penalties for a dragon. First and foremost, if you're out of Will points, you need to use Might points to pass Courage tests to charge terror-causing units and to stay in the game after your force is broken. Second, whenever you take wounds, your Courage rating becomes your most critical stat (and if you're out of Will points...). Finally, when facing units with high Courage and who wound against your Courage value instead of your Defense value (like Centaur's spectres), not only can they make wounding you easier, but they use the same statistic that you will later use to try to save yourself from fleeing the field.
In the coming weeks, we'll be looking at what each of the dragon upgrades gives you as well as the various combinations of what you can do with each. The next post will focus on the "Utility" versions of dragons that you can buy, where a single upgrade shapes the purpose of using the dragon model. Until then, happy hobbying!

1 comment:

  1. Nice write-up: really looking forward to this series as I'm still trying to figure out whether dragons are worth the point cost! :)

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